Day 22: Obligation or Opportunity?

Authors Note:  This is the 22nd entry in a 23 part series – my reactions to each item on the post 23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing.  Please join the conversation.

ImageDuring this time of the year, chances are many of us have been traveling around to visit family, friends, and others with whom we have a chance to connect as we travel back to our childhood and/or family homes.  As we do this – and as we wind down our travel time – consider this:

21. Spending time with people out of obligation. Just because you spent every waking moment of your elementary school days with someone doesn’t mean you have anything in common with her now. There’s no need to see every old friend and third cousin who passes through your city. Be intentional about who you spend your time with and allow yourself to let some relationships fade away naturally.

This one goes hand in hand with the post relating to entry number 20 – “Day 17: Albatross or Songbird” – when we talked about cutting off/banishing toxic friendships/relationships with your life – and entry number 2 – “Day 2: Affirmative Action” – where we discuss saying “yes” to everyone even when you don’t want to do something.  However, this one goes in a little bit of a different direction – in this case, what we’re really talking about is a sense of obligation.

When was the last time you went back to visit your family, and you heard that one of your old elementary or high school friends was in town?  Or better yet – someone’s first cousin, three times removed, was visiting, and they’d really “love it if you’d stop by” (even though the last time you saw this person was in 3rd grade and you have zero contact with them now)?  Unlike saying “yes” to everything because you don’t want to – in these instances, I tend to have this feeling that goes something like this – “I really don’t want to go – but I SHOULD go – because it’s (family/friend/etc.).  If I don’t, (fill in the name of relative or other friend) will be really upset with me.”

Talk about issues colliding!  Here we have a situation in which you DON’T want to do something, that you are possibly connecting with people who add zero value to you at the present moment (or who maybe never did except when you were FIVE), and the “good girl syndrome” all blending together in an obligation casserole.  I mean – how much guilt, regret, disappointment, etc., can you handle all at once?  

Evidently – quite a bit.

These moments happen to us all.  At these times, I tend to focus on what is important to me.  Do I really need to/want to connect with this person? Maybe or maybe not.  Is this a possible relationship that I can reconnect with and really learn from? Could be.  Is this a relationship that – when I was active in it before – brought me joy and/or something more, or that I contributed positively to?  Possibly.

When I consider these things – I come back to what fulfills me and brings me joy.  But I also consider the joy of the other person as well.  I end up splitting these moments at about 50/50.  Sometimes I go and sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes – I’m just too tired to function and I know that I’d be a horrible companion/company for the evening, so I spare my grade school friend and/or relative the bear of dealing with a grumpy JPK.  Other times – I change my mindset and embrace the possible.  I’ve rekindled some amazing connections this way.  

The point of all of this rambling is simple – you have to do what is best for you at that moment.  Go if you want to – or if you feel ready to go . Don’t if you don’t want to.  Never let the lone sentiment of obligation rule your decision, for if you do, you will become a slave to it, and that will never bring you or anyone else around you joy.

How do you handle situations like this?

JPK 

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Day 20: The Big Chill

Time to embrace who we really are, ladies.  Consider this post this evening:

13. Trying to be “chill.” Maybe you truly are the “cool girl” who loves nothing more than kicking back with a six-pack and a movie. But for those of us who don’t possess the “chill” gene, let’s stop trying. Striving to be the mellow girl at all times keeps us from expressing our needs, desires and opinions.

Look – I get it.  You meet new people – you want to be the “best you” you can be.  So you start to gloss over things that bother you.  You overlook things you normally wouldn’t.  You go along with the group to do something that you normally would immediately say “no” to.  If you’re in a new relationship – magnify this times about a thousand.  I know some of you out there don’t do this – but the reality is that most women do.

We’ve been socialized our whole lives to be what others want us to be.  When we were small, we lived for the “good girl” moments – those times when we were praised for doing exactly what our parents or other authority figures wanted us to do.  These rewards sustained us – and for many of us – they still do.  Many times, we go along with what is expected out of fear.  “Will I ever find another (job, partner, opportunity) like this again?  If I don’t – what will I do?  It would be better to just go along with it – it’ll all work out better this way.”

Sound familiar?

I fall victim to this all too often – and when I do, it really makes me angry.  Just today, I actually asked my husband for permission to buy something.  For those of you who know me – you know this is NOT normal – but it just fell out of my mouth like I was asking about the weather.  I fell into that damned people-pleasing trap that I had been encouraged to stay in my entire life.  Blissfully my husband gave me this incredulous look like, “Who are you and what have you done with my wife?!?”  I immediately realized what I had done, and it left me cold.

I can tell you for a fact the primary reason that my first marriage did not work is because I played the “chill” or “good” girl. I followed what I thought I was supposed to be, liked what others liked, did what I thought my first partner expected, shut my opinion down, and  as a result I completely lost sight of myself, my needs and what I really wanted.  I talked a great talk (I seriously should have gone into acting) – I said I wanted kids, that I wanted a house, that I wanted all of the “normal” things every woman “should want” in a marriage, family, community, etc.  For a while, I thought I was supposed to want these things – and so I began to believe that I truly did.  But something was always wrong for me.  And finally, one day I figured it out.

I was trying so hard to fit the definition of what others wanted me to be, that I completely lost sight of myself.

It was a chilling moment for me – and one that I still fight every day to not repeat – at work, at home, and with friends.  It’s a tough fight.  I have very specific and divisive opinions – and I know that I run the risk of alienating others when I express them.  However, at the end of the day, I realize that if I don’t give voice to my voice – I am not being authentic.  I am not being me.

So make a commitment with me – keep trying to fight off the urge to follow what others want for you instead of what you truly want for yourself. You will face this often – but remember, you are in ultimate control of how you respond and what you choose. You have to be honest with yourself in these moments.  But when they come – if you feel uneasy – step away.  Take time to consider your response.  Search who you are and what you believe and then answer and/or make a decision.

Perhaps then you will rediscover yourself, and when you do, keep her close – she’s ridiculously valuable.

Until tomorrow,

JPK

Day 8: 80% is OK

Authors Note:  This is the eighth entry in a 23 part series – my reactions to each item on the post 23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing.  Please join the conversation.

Here is our post from the list for today:

16. Worrying that your life doesn’t look like Pinterest. You are not Martha Stewart. You will probably never make that DIY floating bookshelf. And your Eggocado will never look as delicious as this one does.

Not many people I know have the “perfect” life.  Sure, some appear to be more put together than others, some have better organizational skills, and some seem to be always in front, achieving everything they want to achieve.

I need to let you in on a not-so-shocking, yet seldom-believed secret. Every single person you see that has these (or countless other “perfect” attributes) has problems, runs up against obstacles, and I guarantee you has at least one disorganized closet, garage, or drawer in their life.  If not, I guarantee you they are working through some other struggle that you just don’t see.

No one is perfect – yet we keep striving for perfection. We do it all the time.  We run around cleaning the house frantically 10 minutes prior to a friend popping by.  We worry that the report we turn in doesn’t look “just right”.  We struggle with turning in that dissertation chapter/proposal/final draft because we need to edit it “one more time”.  We get to the point where we are obsessing over all the details that we just don’t finish  (or even try) something.  As a result, we end up in a state of guilt and sadness because we have “failed”, which makes it even harder to try again.

I would offer what we’re really afraid of is the feedback. My aunt, Lucy Sanders, co-founder and CEO of the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) told me once, “Feedback is a gift; if people didn’t care about you, they wouldn’t say anything to help you get better.”  So why do we fear it so much?

The simple fact is that NO ONE IS PERFECT.  End of story.  Because of this, I believe we need a re-frame of what we should be striving for.  I’ve used the following JPK-original quote a number of times with young women who struggle with this pursuit of perfection, so I’ll share it here again:

“Strive for excellence – not perfection.  Excellence is attainable, perfection is not.”

Focusing on perfection stops you from doing things that involve risk.  Focusing on perfection presupposes you can control everything and everyone around you.  Focusing on perfection simply doesn’t work – and you will fail.  Why would you set yourself up for failure right from the beginning?

So for all you perfection hounds (and please know, I am one of you) – reflect on this for a bit.  Think about what excellence truly means, and challenge yourself to see excellence and perfection as two very separate things. Know that sometimes, 80% is really okay, as is the feedback that comes along with the 80%.  And get away from the trap of wanting to be “perfect” so you can enjoy your life.

And try the eggacado recipe – it’s really amazing (and no – mine didn’t look like the picture, either).

Day 7: To Be Real

Authors Note:  This is the seventh entry in a 23 part series – my reactions to each item on the post 23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing.  Please join the conversation.

….and you just thought we were going in order.  Fooled you!

Here’s the entry for today:

22. Being embarrassed about your interests. “I want to be a f**king feminist and wear a f**king Peter Pan collar. So f**king what?,” said Zooey Deschanel in Glamour magazine’s February 2013 issue. Take a cue from the actress and stop caring what you “should” look like/care about/talk about. If you love girly things, love girly things. If you don’t, don’t. Embrace your lack of knowledge about music, your hockey obsession and your weakness for both “Breaking Bad” and “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” And if there’s a particular subject area you don’t know about but you encounter someone who does? Take the opportunity to ask questions.

On the surface, this entry talks about owning what you like and are interested in, and not being afraid of it (please note I will not take this opportunity to analyze just how inappropriate and misogynistic “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” is, and the detrimental impact that has on women.  We’ll save that for another time).  However, if you read between the lines, you will see this entry ties right back to the concept of being authentic with who you are and what you love.

Brené Brown said it best, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day.  It’s about the choice to show up and be real.  The choice to be honest.  The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

When we deny what we love, what we believe, and who we cherish, we deny the core of who we are.  Being authentic is about living out what we value – every day.  Authenticity is about aligning our purpose with our actions, our words with our deeds, and our thoughts with our beliefs.  It is integrity, it is honesty, and it is critically important for us to do in order to lead happy, healthy and full lives.

When you think about authenticity in this way, it’s a wonder why more of us don’t choose to live authentically.  Why is that?

Because of fear – plain and simple.  Living authentically means being vulnerable.  It means trusting that when you open up the core of who you are with other people around you – they will respond positively.  Chances are, you can come up with countless examples when that DIDN’T happen – when you trusted someone with a part of you, and you were hurt by it.  Or worse yet, when you received feedback to behave in a way that was not congruent with who you were, simply to placate another person.

Ladies (and gentlemen), that’s life.  In order to be fulfilled, you have to take a risk.  When you take a risk, sometimes you fall. But when you take a genuine risk – and you succeed – those are the sweetest moments of them all.

Now, I’m not stupid.  I know that being your authentic self can have consequences.  This article, which cites work from Deborah Kolb, Robin Ely and Herminia Ibarra, discusses the challenges women in particular face when being their true authentic selves – and behaving as such – in the workplace.  Gender norms and stereotypes still exist, and the consequences for stepping outside of these roles can be severe.  Read through the article for some good advice on how to navigate this difficult balancing act in the workplace.  Remember that your life extends well beyond your work, but also remember that if your work doesn’t support your values and your purpose, you will not be fulfilled, you will not be happy, and you will not feel connected to your work.  In short – you won’t be authentic.

In the succinct and powerful words of Teri Bump, “You be you.”  Don’t imitate others around you, don’t succumb to the pressures to be “just like everyone else”.  To be authentic, you need to be who you are, and we need for you to be that way.  Lead your way, trust your way, share your way, and live your way.  You make the world better in your unique and creative way – so please, don’t deny us (and more importantly YOURSELF) the opportunity to know the real you!

So – let’s be authentic together.  Are you in?